Oaks students use skills to help Clermont Crew

Members of Clermont Crew with the refurbished trailer
Students at the Live Oaks and Diamond Oaks Career Campuses used their skills recently to benefit another group of high school students—members of the Clermont Crew.

Clermont Crew is a nationally-recognized high school rowing team based on Harsha Lake in East Fork State Park. Students from all over Clermont County row on the team and travel around the Midwest to compete at various regattas.

Live Oaks students work on the trailer.

In the spring of 2011, heavy rains caused record floods at Harsha Lake, damaging the Clermont Crew facilities. The Crew’s boat trailer was underwater for most of a month.

The 40-foot trailer, used to carry the very long rowing shells to regatta destinations as far away as Canada, is a key piece of equipment.

Replacement was out of the question – a new trailer of this type costs $20,000 or more. A major overhaul was needed.

“Since the Crew is essentially a county-wide high school program, it was suggested that perhaps another area high school program could be asked to assist,” said Crew volunteer Derek Hart. “Live Oaks provides a wide variety of vocational programs for area students, including welding and painting. Perhaps the kids at Live Oaks could help get the kids at Clermont Crew back on the road?”

Great Oaks supervisor Russ Crosthwaite met with Clermont Crew board members, and agreed to connect the crew to the Live Oaks programs for welding and painting.

Live Oaks welding instructor Matt Crump was immediately enthusiastic about the project. He encouraged the crew to not only repair the trailer, but to update and improve it as well.

An extensive plan to add a floor and side walls to the trailer was developed, allowing it to carry lots of additional equipment. Care was taken to keep the structure light, yet strong enough for rowers to climb around on and lift boats into position.

The welding students at Live Oaks moved the trailer into their shop and got to work. The new deck and railing were tapered front and back, so it was a tricky process to fit the new structure. Pieces were tacked and checked, and repositioned until everything looked right.

As Crump’s team of student fabricators cut and fit several dozen individual steel members to produce the upgraded configuration, the painting team was puzzling over how to get a 40 foot trailer into a paint booth designed for automobiles.

The paint booth in the Live Oaks Auto Collision program wouldn’t hold the trailer because of the way it was positioned inside the shop. Across town at Diamond Oaks, Auto Tech Instructor Lonnie Marimon agreed to take on the oversized challenge.

Once the fabrication was complete the students at Diamond Oaks prepped the whole thing for painting and moved it into their paint booth.

“Well, halfway in, anyway,” said Derek Hart. “The paint booth was only large enough for half of the trailer’s length. And as they rolled it in, they found that it was also too tall!”

In the end, they removed the wheels and pushed it in on rolling floor jacks to get the required clearance. They then pulled it out and turned it around to get the other half painted.

Not only did the Great Oaks students gain valuable experience and help out other high school students but it paid off in other ways, as the Clermont Crew board donated $100 to the school to help defray costs for regional and state competitions.

The hard work and ingenuity of the Great Oaks teams resulted in a completely updated trailer being delivered to the kids at Clermont Crew in time for them to head to Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the end of April.

Clermont’s coach, Lynne Graves was pleased with the results. “We can carry much more gear now, and I’m no longer worried about the trailer’s condition. It looked so good, some of the rowers thought it was a new trailer!”

Initially started as a small boat pilot program of the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club in 2000, Clermont Crew and Sculling Club is now entering its 11th year of independent operation based at the James E. Sauls, Sr. Water Sports Center in East Fork State Park.

Throughout, it has offered summer, fall and winter club training and a cooperative spring scholastic program with Clermont County Public Schools Glen Este, Amelia, Milford, New Richmond, Batavia, Bethel-Tate, Felicity-Franklin, Clermont North Eastern and Goshen, as well as parochial and private schools in the area. It also has attracted home-schooled high school age athletes who are excited by the unique challenge of rowing.

Clermont Crew athletes have won 21 National Championship Medals They have competed internationally in Mexico, Canada, and in events throughout the midwestern and eastern United States Many athletes have won Midwest Championships over the years, including Matt Maupin who rowed in the first Midwest Championship men’s quad in 2001.